Adam has been a race fan since the first time he went through the tunnel under the Daytona International Speedway almost 30 years ago. He has had the privilege of traveling to races all across the state of Florida (as well as one race in Ohio), watching nearly everything with a motor compete for fame and glory, as well as participating in various racing schools to get the feel of what racecar drivers go through every week.
Adam spent several years covering motorsports for Examiner.com., where he had the opportunity to see the racing world from behind the scenes as well as the grandstands. He invites everyone to follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, and looks forward to sharing his enthusiasm for all things racing with the readers of SpeedwayDigest.com.
Be sure to tune in for his sports talk program, Thursday Night Thunder, where he discusses the latest in motorsports news with drivers, crew members, and fans. The show takes place (almost) every Thursday at 8:00 pm EST on the Speedway Digest Radio Network.
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No category within the Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series had a more exciting finish to the year than Nitro Harley.
With four drivers entering the final event of the season within reach of the title, the battle for the Nitro Harley championship came down to the final pass of the year between a trio of teammates with Mike Scott emerging as the 2014 IHRA Nitro Harley champion at the Summit Racing Equipment World Finals at Memphis International Raceway.
With two-races-in-one on the docket for the World Finals weekend following a rainout of the Pittsburgh Nationals earlier in the year, additional points were on the line in Memphis as Mike Scott, Randal Andras, Mark Cox and Jay Turner contended for the championship.
Scott began the weekend in style with a runner-up finish in the Pittsburgh makeup race, propelling him to the top of the mountain with three rounds of work ahead. But his weekend was far from over. A loss in the semifinals of race two would put his fate in the hands of his teammates, something he had hoped to avoid.
"I really wanted to get to the final and not have to put the championship in the hands of someone else," Scott said. "When the final came, I stood on the line and just hoped for the best. It was out of my hands at that point and all I could do was watch."
Ironically, all four drivers in contention for the championship advanced to the semifinals in Memphis, with Andras and Turner escaping to the final round.
With Turner and Cox officially eliminated from the championship, the battle came down to Turner Racing teammates Andras and Scott for the 2014 Nitro Harley title. With Scott leading the standings, Andras would need a win in the final to secure the title, while a win by Turner would seal the championship for Scott.
Adding to the drama, Andras blew a motor in the semifinals, but all three riders pitched in to help him make the call - a double-edged sword with so much on the line, but a decision Scott said this team would make every time.
"Of course I had mixed feelings, it is a championship," Scott said with a laugh. "We talked about it before. Jay could have gone out and ran the final by himself, but that is not how our team works. We win together and we lose together. Everybody was working on that bike, even I was in there working on it, so that was definitely a good deal."
In the end Andras held his own fate in his hands, but he couldn't get around Turner in the final race of the season. Turner ran a 6.295 at 220.48 mph in the final, sealing the championship for Scott, while Andras put together a 6.351 at 223.47 mph to finish second in the race and in the championship standings.
Scott's runner-up and semifinal finish in Memphis helped him earn a final tally of 821 points on the season, nine points ahead of Andras in the final standings. Scott, hailing from Blind Bay, British Columbia, finished the year with three wins, taking the season opener at Southwestern International Raceway in Tucson in March followed by back-to-back wins at the Spring Nationals at Rockingham Dragway and President's Cup Nationals at Maryland International Raceway midway through the year. All three of his victories came against his Turner Racing teammates, defeating Andras twice and Turner once.
"Jay is just the best. I am here because Jay put me here. He helped me win races all year long and gave me an unbelievable bike," Scott said. "I didn't ride well in Memphis and almost gave it away, but he went out there and got it back for me. What can I say, it was an amazing year and great to finish to cap the season."
Championship runner-up Randal Andras, from Amelia, Louisiana, recorded two wins in five final rounds on the season. Mark Cox, the lone rider in the top four not hailing from the Turner Racing stable, rode his Bojangles-sponsored motorcycle to a third place finish in the standings with two wins. Jay Turner finished fourth with one win, while Alvin Kobernusz rounded out the top five.
The extremely competitive season also saw both ends of the Nitro Harley record reset in 2014. Joey Sternotti set the new elapsed time mark for the class at 6.250 seconds at Bradenton Motorsports Park in April, while Cox set the new speed record at 230.76 mph, also at Bradenton.
Scott and Andras led the championship standings wire-to-wire, with the pair trading the lead multiple times throughout the year. On the year, nine different riders visited a final round, with Scott leading the pack with three victories.
"It was a great year for the entire Turner Racing team. We had a lot of fun trading the lead with Randal and, even as nerve-racking as it was there at the end, it was a fitting way to end the year between us," Cox said. "I want to thank Jay, Dorothy and the entire team for all they do for me. We look forward to seeing if we can add a few more of these trophies to our collection next year."
AMA Pro Racing Announces Restructuring and Renewed Focus on AMA Pro Flat Track and AMA Pro Hillclimb
AMA Pro Racing announced today a restructuring and a renewed focus on the sanctioning, operation and promotion of AMA Pro Flat Track and AMA Pro Hillclimb. In addition, the company remains committed to maintaining the positive and synergistic relationship with MX Sports in the sanctioning of the professional Motocross and ATV disciplines.
Along with changes in staffing, select AMA Pro Racing employees will see modifications in title and responsibility that will, primarily, help to build the stature of the company's flat track and hillclimb championships. The increased focus on these exciting motorsport properties was made possible by the recent transfer of commercial and promotional rights of the road racing series to the American Motorcyclist Association and the KRAVE Group.
"We are excited for the future of AMA Pro Flat Track and AMA Pro Hillclimb," said Michael Gentry, Chief Operating Officer of AMA Pro Racing. "These changes will allow us to better focus our resources and, in that regard, we see this as a very positive change moving forward. With a full flat track schedule nearly complete for 2015 and every round set to be broadcast live in high definition and free of charge online at FansChoice.tv, we feel there is a lot of positive momentum and we know we have a great staff in place to maximize exposure and marketability for our racing properties."
To support the staff headquartered in Daytona Beach, Fla., AMA Pro Racing will retain consultants to advise and assist the company on certain areas of the business. The first such consultant to be brought on, industry veteran Steve McLaughlin, lends his immense expertise in a number of areas where the organization feels it can thrive. The AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer's legacy includes victories in AMA Superbike, the founding of World Superbike and the profitable promotion of World Championship Motorcycle Grand Prix and Supercross events.
McLaughlin returned to the business of race promotion in 2014 when he successfully brought the Sacramento Mile back to the AMA Pro Flat Track schedule. With his wealth of knowledge on the business of event promotion, McLaughlin will act as a liaison to the AMA Pro Flat Track promoters and will assist AMA Pro Racing with site selection for potential future events.
AMA Pro Racing Headquarters Staff, by Department
Michael Gentry, Chief Operating Officer
Dan Johnsen, Director of Flat Track
Steve Morehead, Flat Track Senior Race Manager
Gene Crouch, Director of Communications & Technical Operations
Jared Johnson, Timing & Scoring Manager
Patrick Buganski, Communications Manager
Lisa McCarty, Senior Marketing Manager
Andrew Swain, Marketing & Communications Coordinator
Operations and Accounting:
Stacey Melanson, Managing Director of Operations and Accounting
Nicole Spanik, Senior Manager of Accounting
Becki Edmondson, Director of Member Services and Event Registration
Sharon McMillan, Senior Membership Services Coordinator/Admin Coordinator
Kim Barnick, Administrative Assistant
Mike Neely, Transportation/Technical Manager
As part of the restructuring, AMA Pro Racing board member David Atlas will transition from Chief Business Development Officer to the role of Strategic Alliance Consultant.
AMA Pro Flat Track will kick off the 2015 season on March 12 and 13 with a doubleheader at the DAYTONA Flat Track. For tickets and information, please visit http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.
The International Hot Rod Association's Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series will make its national television debut on Thursday, November 6 at 8:30 p.m. on MAVTV.
The series will air every Thursday at 8:30 p.m. with an encore showing at 11:30 p.m., all on MAVTV. Following the series premier on November 6, each episode will be available for download one week following its air date on iTunes, Hulu, Netflix and Amazon.
MAV TV, with its unparalleled line-up of motorsports events and exclusive automotive reality shows, will air all 12 IHRA Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series (NJDRS) events and a special season in review episode in a unique, character-driven show that will focus on equal parts behind the scenes stories, car and driver profiles and on-track racing.
All season long the IHRA Productions film crews have followed the drama and excitement of the NJDRS with special behind-the-scenes footage combined with thrilling on-track action. Hosted by six-time IHRA Top Fuel World Champion Clay Millican and rising Nashville star Carissa Biele, fans will get up-close-and-personal with the stars of the IHRA's professional drag racing series and witness all of the drama that is associated with championship motorsports.
Beginning with the debut episode on Thursday, November 6, each week will take a look at a different Nitro Jam event spanning nine states and two trips to Canada in a coast-to-coast adventure with some of the biggest stars in IHRA drag racing. From funny car driver "Mr. Explosive" Mark Sanders, Nitro Harley rider Jay Turner and former IHRA pro stock champion Pete Berner, to the all-female Jet Dragster team at Larsen Motorsports, the NJDRS television series will follow the championship battles in all of IHRA's professional classes.
Thursday, November 6 @ 8:30 p.m. - IHRA NJDRS (Tucson, AZ) Thursday, November 6 @ 11:30 p.m. - IHRA NJDRS (Tucson, AZ)
Thursday, November 13 @ 8:30 p.m. - IHRA NJDRS (San Antonio, TX) Thursday, November 13 @ 11:30 p.m. - IHRA NJDRS (San Antonio, TX)
Thursday, November 20 @ 8:30 p.m. - IHRA NJDRS (Bradenton, FL) Thursday, November 20 @ 11:30 p.m. - IHRA NJDRS (Bradenton, FL)
Thursday, November 27 @ 8:30 p.m. - IHRA NJDRS (West Palm Beach, FL) Thursday, November 27 @ 11:30 p.m. - IHRA NJDRS (West Palm Beach, FL)
Mazda Motorsports is thrilled to announce that global, market-leading technology brand Battery Tender joins the Mazda MX-5 Cup as title partner. For 2015, the series will be known as the “Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires.”
“As we embark on our 10th Anniversary of Mazda MX-5 Cup, we’re elated to welcome the undisputed industry leader in battery charger technology – Battery Tender – as title partner of our series.” said John Doonan, director of Mazda Motorsports. “Throughout the paddock the MX-5 Cup is considered ‘must see’ racing with many races determined on the last lap, if not the last turn. Key to our success are great partners, great teams and drivers, and great events. We’re equally happy that our partnership with both BFGoodrich Tires and SCCA Pro Racing will continue for 2015.”
Evin Prelec, Director of Marketing and Advertising for DelTran noted that “DelTran Battery Tender is excited to announce our partnership with Mazda and the successful Mazda MX-5 Cup Series. We are like-minded brands with similar goals, objectives, and values and both of our organizations strive towards introductions of industry leading, innovative and efficient products. DelTran chargers were the first to pass the California Efficiency Compliant test while Mazda has brought SKYACTIV Technology to the forefront. We look forward to maximizing our title partnership of the Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich and are already collaborating on ways to leverage our collective design, engineering and technical capabilities to bring exciting new products to market.”
"BFGoodrich Tires is proud to again partner with Mazda in support of Mazda MX-5 Cup with the g-Force R1-S tire," stated Peter Calhoun, Motorsports Marketing Manager, BFGoodrich Tires. "2014 was a stellar demonstration of Mazda MX-5 and BFGoodrich performance and 2015 should be even better."
For the 2014 season, the total series payout was in excess of $500,000. The top prize of the Mazda MX-5 Cup is a Mazda Scholarship towards the next higher rung of the Mazda SportsCar Racing Academy ladder. 2014 Mazda MX-5 Cup Champion Kenton Koch will use his scholarship to move up to IMSA Prototype Lites for the 2015 season.
The 2015 season will consist of six weekends supporting the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, IndyCar, and the NASCAR XFINITY Series. All weekends will be doubleheaders.
March 18-20 Rounds 1 & 2 Sebring International Raceway
April 10-12 Rounds 3 & 4 NOLA Motorsports Park
May 1-3 Rounds 5 & 6 Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
July 10-12 Rounds 7 & 8 Canadian Tire Motorsports Park
August 28-30 Rounds 9 & 10 Road America
October 1-2 Rounds 11 & 12 Road Atlanta
Within the Mazda MX-5 Cup, there is a separate class for cars prepared by the Skip Barber Racing School. Their race within a race is classified as the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge.
2015 will be the final year for the third generation Mazda MX-5s to compete in the Battery Tender MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich. Beginning in 2016, the fourth generation Mazda MX-5 will debut on racetracks around the globe.
Motocross legend Ricky Carmichael has the perfect go-anywhere transporter in the all-new Chevrolet Colorado for his motorcycle, mountain bike and the gear that goes with them.
Carmichael teamed with Chevrolet to develop the Colorado Performance concept to illustrate the lifestyle-supporting capability of Chevy’s new midsize pickup truck. It debuts this week at the SEMA Show, the world’s largest trade show of automotive performance and personalization.
“Where I take my bikes, a full-size truck isn’t always the best solution, so a maneuverable midsize truck like the Colorado is just the ticket,” said Carmichael. “Besides a cargo bed that’s not only large enough to haul a motocross bike and a mountain bike, the Colorado has the power to confidently take them where the pavement ends.”
Carmichael consulted with Chevrolet on the unique concept equipment to facilitate the bikes’ mounting in the Colorado crew cab’s 6’ 2” cargo bed, which allows hauling of items up to eight feet long with the tailgate down. A concept tailgate extender helps secure the bikes, while the Colorado’s standard CornerStep rear bumper makes it easier to step up and reach into the bed to tighten hold-down straps or retrieve other gear.
The concept mounting features on Carmichael’s Colorado were developed with the same eye on integrated functionality that’s offered in production accessories available today for Colorado customers – including the patent-pending GearOn™ system. It’s designed to hold larger items such as bikes, boards and kayaks above the bed, leaving room for smaller gear such as tents and sleeping bags in the bed. It can even accommodate 4 x 8-foot sheets of plywood above the wheelhouses.
Customers can have the accessories installed when they purchase their new truck, so they are ready at the time of vehicle delivery. In fact, they can even roll their cost, including any installation charges, into the monthly payments for the Colorado, and carry a warranty backed by General Motors.
With his motorcycle and mountain bike safely mounted, Carmichael and Chevrolet designers turned their attention to the Colorado’s exterior and interior to give it a one-of-a-kind appearance reflecting the hall-of-fame racer’s competitive spirit.
The truck was given a unique matte gray exterior color accented with high-gloss silver and yellow accents – and a graphic of Carmichael’s signature. The production 17-inch Z71 aluminum wheels were accented with yellow highlights and wrapped in Goodyear Duratec off-road tires. A concept sport bar was also added to the bed.
Yellow accents were added to the interior, along with Carmichael’s racing number 4 embroidered into the front seat headrests. Like the production Colorado, Carmichael’s concept version is well connected via Chevy MyLink with a built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. There’s also a standard rearview camera system that’s helpful when backing up with tall cargo, such as a motorcycle.
And when it comes to the power Carmichael appreciates, the Colorado delivers the segment’s most powerful and efficient engine: an available 3.6L V-6 rated at 305 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque – and 26 mpg on the highway (2WD models), according to EPA estimates. The concept vehicle features a concept performance exhaust system.
That power supports segment-leading capabilities, too, including a 7,000-pound maximum trailering capacity with available heavy-duty trailering package, and a maximum payload capacity of 1,590 pounds.
“The Colorado does everything I want in a pickup truck,” said Carmichael. “It simply does it in a smaller package that fits the lifestyle of a lot of people like me.”
Join the social conversation at #CHEVYSEMA.
Some of the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship title scripts were re-written after several key events during the 6 Hours of Shanghai today. However the big prize in the premier class looks unlikely to go to anyone other than Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi.
The WORLD ENDURANCE DRIVERS' CHAMPIONSHIP sees Davidson and Buemi further extend their advantage after another maximum score in China. The British/Swiss partnership now enjoys a huge 42-point margin over their nearest pursuers meaning that they need just a further 10 points to confirm themselves as champions for the first time.
The WORLD ENDURANCE MANUFACTURERS' CHAMPIONSHIP sees Toyota lead Audi by 29 points, with Porsche on 133.
The FIA ENDURANCE TROPHY FOR LMP2 DRIVERS has really started to hot up with G-Drive Racing’s Olivier Pla, Roman Rusinov and Julien Canal’s second win in succession meaning they have reduced a once healthy points gap for Sergey Zlobin to just 8pts heading to Bahrain in two weeks’ time. The same points gap applies to the FIA ENDURANCE TROPHY FOR LMP2 TEAMS.
In the WORLD ENDURANCE CUP FOR GT DRIVERS standings, the spectacular retirements of the #51 AF Corse Ferrari and the #97 Aston Martin Racing ensures that the gap has now reduced to 24.5 points between Gianmaria Bruni/Toni Vilander and Shanghai victor – Frédéric Makowiecki.
AF Corse still leads the chase for FIA ENDURANCE TROPHY FOR LMGTE PRO TEAMSbut now by just 11 points from the #92 Porsche Team Manthey squad.
In the WORLD ENDURANCE CUP FOR GT MANUFACTURERS, Ferrari has a slender seven point lead over Porsche.
Registering another podium position in third place at Shanghai was David Heinemeier-Hansson and Kristian Poulsen. Their incredible consistency this season has edged them closer to the FIA ENDURANCE TROPHY FOR LMGTE AM DRIVERS title and they have a 31 point gap to their stablemates Paul Dalla Lana, Christoffer Nygaard and Pedro Lamy.
What can be said with definite certainty now is that the FIA ENDURANCE TROPHY FOR LMGTE AM TEAMS will be heading to one of the #95 or #98 Aston Martin Racing entries. Again, 31pts separate the crews but with third placed Proton Competition 57pts in arrears, it means that with 52pts available they cannot be beaten by another team.
With 12 hours of racing remaining at Bahrain and Interlagos there is all to play for throughout the vast majority of the championships.
Let battle commence!
(FIA WEC PR)
The bright, warm sunshine of the Middle East will welcome the FIA World Endurance Championship in just two weeks’ time for the seventh and penultimate stop in the 2014 Championship. The race promises to be a scintillating one with championship battles across the classes getting tighter and tighter!
Toyota Racing’s Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi took their fourth victory of the season in China and moved ever closer to their first World Endurance Championship crown. There is much to gain and all to lose for the pairing at the next round, and the title will surely be on everyone’s mind within the Japanese team.
The 27 cars which are due to take the start of the 6 Hours of Bahrain will be providing just as much action as was seen in China, but some of the LMP2 and LMGTE Pro categories will certainly be hoping for less drama. The first lap accident involving the current GT Drivers’ Championship leader, Gianmaria Bruni, and LMP2 contender KCMG, put to an end the Italian’s hopes of wrapping up the title chase in China. There will be much at stake for AF Corse with both Bruni and his team mate Toni Vilander aiming to fight back in Bahrain.
In the LMP2 category G-Drive Racing has also four victories this year and consecutive wins at Fuji and Shanghai has given it new momentum towards the title. The Russian entered team has closed the gap consistently to SMP Racing’s Sergey Zlobin and the competition in this class is sure to be intense. Also competitive, but within the same team, will be the battle for LMGTE Am honours as both the manufacturer’s entries in this category could still win the championship.
The superb 5.412 km (3.363 mile) Sakhir circuit in the Kingdom of Bahrain is the venue for the race which begins mid-afternoon and runs into the night, providing an added challenge for the teams and drivers. This will be the third race of the season to be run during the hours of darkness, following the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Lone Star Grand Prix in Texas.
CLICK HERE for the entry list for the 6 Hours of Bahrain
(Fiona Miller, FIA WEC PR)
Pirelli World Challenge GT and GTA Classes Will Compete at the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix in 2015
WC Vision announced today that it has added an additional race weekend to its 2015 schedule. The series' GT and GTA classes will return to race as part of the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, May 29-31, 2015. The event will feature two GT/GTA races.
A media conference call was held today to discuss ESPN’s live telecasts of NASCAR racing coming to an end with the Nov. 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. ESPN has televised live NASCAR Sprint Cup racing for 28 years (1981-2000, 2007-2014).
Participants on the call were ESPN vice president, motorsports, production, Rich Feinberg, lap-by-lap announcer Allen Bestwick pit reporter Dr. Jerry Punch and analyst Rusty Wallace. A transcript of the call follows:
RICH FEINBERG: Thank you, everybody, for joining on the call. We appreciate your attendance today as well as all your support over the years. I've been involved with ESPN's coverage of NASCAR since 1995, and it has been a wonderful ride, to say the least, filled with so many great memories, friendships, as well as some really high level of production over the years that I have nothing but pride as I think backwards.
But it's interesting, in thinking about today's call, I find myself more looking forward to the next two weeks. When we last left you Sunday night at Texas, all hell was breaking loose at the racetrack, and you know, no one knows what's going to happen this week going into Phoenix, but with eight drivers separated only by 18 points and none of the four finalists determined yet, tune in to ESPN at 2:00 because I think it's going to be one heck of a show and one heck of a shootout, and that's our focus, and we're all really, really looking forward to it.
Jerry Punch, you've been with ESPN since 1984. This is ESPN's 28th year televising live NASCAR racing, and you've been part of almost all of that. What are some of your top two or three memories from those years?
JERRY PUNCH: Well, let me just say thank you to the folks who are joining us on the call and have been covering our sport with us and alongside us for many, many years.
It would be hard ‑‑ I'd be hard pressed to pick out one memory. Someone asked me last week how many times I've interviewed a champion, and because of the question I was asked to go back and count it up, and there have been 29 NASCAR champions in the 66‑year history of the sport. I went back and counted, and I've interviewed 24 of the 29. Five I didn't get to talk with, and 20 of those 24 I actually interviewed while they were still competing in the sport, so I feel like I've been very blessed over the years from talking with Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip in the early years to the phenomenal performance of Jimmie Johnson.
But I have to say, Alan Kulwicki's championship win in that final race when he pulled into victory lane in 1992 in Atlanta, pulled there into the start‑finish line to be interviewed, and Richard Petty's last race, that's one of those moments I'll never forget. Alan driving the Underbird, the young man who came from Wisconsin with, as we said back in those days, a pickup truck and a pocketful of dreams and chased his dream and became a NASCAR champion with very few resources.
It was a day in which Davey Allison could have won it, Bill Elliott could have won it, and either one of those would have been great stories, but Kulwicki wins it and then we do the interview, and I turn and my producer in my earpiece says, now turn and say something because we're going to introduce Richard Petty. So I turned and introduced Richard Petty, and his rebuilt damaged race car comes out of the garage in Atlanta and makes one final lap and then comes down pit road, and we are feeding the house, the local Atlanta Motor Speedway as well as those watching on national television, and I interview Richard, and I caught myself because he gets out of the car, and for the first time I saw tears in his eyes and going down his cheek, and they were on my cheeks because I realized how special that moment was. It just doesn't get much better than that.
I'd say those were probably at or near the top.
Allen, in an interview you did a couple weeks ago you were talking about the history of ESPN and NASCAR and you made the point that ESPN came along at the right time in NASCAR's history. Could you elaborate on that?
ALLEN BESTWICK: It's something that's very much been on my mind as I've reflected over these last eight years. If you look back on the history of both ESPN and NASCAR separately, you come back to ESPN and NASCAR together inevitably. NASCAR was this budding sport that had all this product, this great racing and these great characters, and it needed exposure, and this thing called cable TV came along, and this group that had an idea for a 24‑hour all‑sports television network, and they needed sports, and they got together.
For a kid like me that grew up in the Northeast as a fan of local modified racing, all of a sudden I was able to see Rockingham and Martinsville and North Wilkesboro and Bristol and all these great places, and they made me want to go to those racetracks, those early telecasts, and at the same time, it drew me to this thing called ESPN, to watch, and it became a part of my daily lifestyle habit.
I don't think that NASCAR would be the sport and the entity it is today, and ESPN would not be the worldwide leader in sports today if they didn't have each other. You can't separate the history of ESPN from NASCAR and the history of NASCAR from ESPN. They're just interlocked together in what's made them what they are today.
Rusty, you got out of the race car at the end of the 2005 season and then you went right into TV, which was the plan for you. You've said many times that that was part of the reason you retired is that you had the TV deal waiting. How was it for you back then when you started off as pretty raw getting out of the car and getting into TV and started out doing IndyCar racing? How was it for you back then as a rookie?
RUSTY WALLACE: Well, first of all, I enjoy television, no doubt about that, and ESPN has made a lot of opportunities for me. But I'll tell you, it was tough on me, it really was, because I made a lot of mistakes. Just the way I presented everything, I was talking too fast, I was letting my sentences run together. I was doing just a lot of Rustyisms, and I had to learn to TV talk. I had to learn how to present a little bit better.
But that said, I think that came ‑‑ I had some good tutoring from the folks at ESPN to kind of clean that stuff up and get better at it, and I just had such a good time with the guys. I really have. ESPN has given me a lot of opportunities. I never thought in a million years that I'd come out of the car in 2005, and in 2006 I'd be calling the entire year as an analyst with Scott Goodyear up doing IndyCar racing. But I did, I did the Indianapolis 500 as an analyst in '06, I did the Indy 500 as an analyst in '07, and I had a great time with the IndyCar crowd.
And then when we got the NASCAR program, working in the booth for a year there, but then the brand new NASCAR Countdown show came on, and I was asked if I'd like to come down and do that, and I did, so I was with Allen with a host of other people, and now Brad Daugherty and Nicole Briscoe. But ESPN has allowed me to do a lot of different things in the sport; like I said, IndyCar, NASCAR in the booth, NASCAR in the studio, NASCAR on SportsCenter, all the NASCAR Now shows we've had. All kinds of different platforms, and I've learned so much, and nowadays when I go around to the races, a lot of race fans come up to me whether I'm at an airport or at the track, and they say, we really love your commentating. They used to say, we really love your driving. It's really changed a little bit, and ESPN has kept my name out there and kept me relevant and kept me going.
I work hard at it, though. I'm constantly down in the garage areas talking to people and come up with some related stories and stuff and some behind the scenes stuff, but I'm going to miss ESPN. I really will.
There's not a day that goes by that I don't think I could still do it behind the wheel as a racer, and I still think that. But I'm smart enough to realize that that's not the smart thing to try to do again.
I love the television side of it, and again, I just love what ESPN has done for me. We're all a close family. We all get along good. We've all had our bumps in the road. We've all learned, and I wish we were continuing on, but we're not.
Q. For Rich, I know going forward, a lot of fans and viewers have wondered what can they expect from ESPN next year as far as NASCAR coverage? Some people are afraid that it's going to be totally ignored. Other people are wondering if you guys are going to just report on like the big events and ignore some of the other races. Do you have any sense of what that coverage might be like next year?
RICH FEINBERG: I do, and I can assure those asking the question and all fans out there that we're going to continue to cover NASCAR across all our news and information platforms in a very significant way. We don't have rights agreements with many different sports out there, but SportsCenter has an obligation to their fans to cover all sports, and as you may know, we recently announced that some of our folks who work on NASCAR are staying with the company long‑term like Ricky Craven and Marty Smith. We obviously have a lot of outlets for all our content, both over the air, cable, digital, dot‑com, et cetera. Our plans are to fulfill the interests of NASCAR fans who watch all our news and information programming, and I can tell you I personally have already been involved in our planning for coverage for the Daytona 500 in 2015 next year.
I don't think you'll see much of a change. We obviously won't be doing the races, but in terms of serving the interests of fans with our news and information coverage, we're full steam ahead.
Q. Rusty, Rich mentioned earlier the explosiveness of last week's race at Texas and everything that came out of that. As a former driver and a former champion, what's your take on Brad Keselowski? Do you see him as somebody that's out of control and doesn't have the respect of his peers, or is he somebody that's talented, driven, and willing to do what he thinks is necessary to accomplish his goals?
RUSTY WALLACE: The second part is what I agree on. I think he's a talented guy that's aggressive that wants to win real, real bad. The way he's been driving of late reminds me of Dale Earnhardt, Sr., which obviously was one of our most popular drivers in NASCAR. The guy is aggressive, he wants to win, he's going for it, and I'll tell you, there are a lot, a lot of analysts and a lot of people backing up Brad's decision that when Jeff Gordon took the high line going into Turn 1 on the restart and that hole opened up, I'm telling you what, as a competitor with just a handful of laps to go, when he saw that hole and Brad went for it, he went for it.
Jeff Gordon got the raw end because his left rear got bumped and he got a flat tire. But I don't think there's a driver in the world that would not have tried to put their car in that hole and go for it. He's been aggressive. He's ruffled some feathers, but I've seen a lot of other drivers do it, and I'd rather have a driver driving for me that's aggressive instead of the other way around.
You know, we're going to work hard in our NASCAR show this coming weekend at Phoenix to kind of illustrate what happened and break it down, but I'm not saying this, I obviously feel like I'm giving a disclaimer here, I'm not saying this because I drove the 2 car, but I am kind of on Brad's side on this one. I think I would have done the same thing. If I saw the hole I would have went for it, and obviously Jeff was the one that got his feathers ruffled on it. I have no idea how Kevin Harvick got involved in it or why he was involved in it, but that's my take on it.
Q. Rich, do you guys even have any sort of protocol for Jamie (Little) and what she's supposed to do if a brawl all of a sudden breaks out around her?
RICH FEINBERG: I don't know that we have a protocol. Her cameraman is a pretty svelte, tall, buff guy, so the thing that as I reflect on that moment, both watching it go down in the control room and thinking about it flying home yesterday, and the amazing job that Jamie did was not necessarily the composure that she held with all the chaos that was around her and obviously being concerned for her well being, but the most respective, and I think the greatest applause should be that even after that moment took place, she did her job, and she did it at such a high level by being willing, able to ask the tough questions of Brad.
I don't know that all reporters would be able to maintain that composure in that situation and then follow it up with outstanding journalism, and that's what Jamie deserves the biggest kudos for. That's what I told her when I texted her as soon as we got off the air. I'm extremely proud of her. She's one heck of a reporter.
Q. And for any of you, is there any one thing that you feel like has really ‑‑ ESPN has done since kind of regaining the NASCAR contract seven, eight years ago that you've felt has really enhanced the coverage?
RICH FEINBERG: I think there's a number of things, and I'd love to hear everybody else's idea. It sort of falls under that's my job every year is to come up with those things. But one that I would point to is the NASCAR Nonstop. We're the only media partner who has the commitment to our coverage, and it does have an effect on the business, but for us to be able to, throughout the Chase, show the second half of all Chase races, essentially the playoffs and the championship, without ever going to a full‑screen commercial week in and week out I think is an excellent example of how ESPN has tried to maintain its commitment, not only to NASCAR but to our fans in general. We are constantly looking at technical innovations that can make the shows more entertaining for our viewers. We were the first media partner that they had to do high definition on onboards (cameras). But when you do something like reduce the size of the commercial box and keep a live shot on, that's not as simple as just saying we want to do that. That has to involve the support of NASCAR. It has to technically be achieved. It has to involve the support of our sales department, our clients, our advertisers, and I think it shows the in‑depth commitment to the sport during the most important time of the year.
ALLEN BESTWICK: I think a couple of areas specifically. One is technology. Rich mentioned taking the on board cameras high def, taking the cameras where you can see two different views coming out of a car at the same time instead of just one. That was not a cheap undertaking and it was not an easy one, but it was something that our company undertook and made successful.
Depth of information, using the resources available to us to bring viewers more information at the same time. If you go back and look eight years ago versus what we did last Sunday or what we will do, ESPN has the phrase about "next level," and I believe we've gone next level with a lot of the depth of information, the capturing of strategies, that sort of thing that has elevated the bar a little bit, as is the case always through the years, and done ourselves proud.
RUSTY WALLACE: I guess the thing I really enjoy so much is ESPN having the platforms they have. I mean, the ability to have a backup plan or go somewhere in case we need to. I mean, if we're on ABC and we need to go to ESPN, we've got that availability. If we have a problem with ESPN and we need to go to ESPN2 because a game runs long or something, we can do that. We can go to NEWS, ESPN3, just so many platforms that ESPN has to present the race that a lot of others don't have.
The guys hit it dead on about technology. Technology is so important, what we're able to do now, the way we present the race. Last week I was pushing our button in our studio back to Jimmy Gaiero, our producer, saying hey, show the miles per hour, and he said, good idea, I'll do it, and actually Allen brought in up in our production meeting that week because we knew we were going to see some big, big speeds, going Turn 1 especially on restarts at Texas.
So we were seeing well over 200 miles an hour, and the number just really excites people. The fans love to see that number. I mean, these guys were just screaming around the racetrack. And to have the ability to do that and go back and forth and all the different platforms, I could go on and on and on, but that's just a brief summary of what's on my mind.
JERRY PUNCH: I would add that the technology arena, I would add that the aggressive use of radios. We have some incredibly talented people in our production trucks, and if you don't know how that works, what happens is that myself or Jamie Little or Vince Welch or Dave Burns will be listening to the radios prior to a pit stop during the race, and I will hit a button and I will say, great radio 24 car, so Jeff Gordon talking to Alan Gustafson, back and forth, spotter. Immediately the folks in our truck who are monitoring radios will have that radio up, will listen, they will turn that right around, they will tell the producer, Jim Gaiero, who tells Allen Bestwick, and they transition the story, let's get down to Doc Punch. So I will lead in, here's what's happening. Jeff Gordon is saying so‑and‑so, let's listen in, so you're hearing that radio, and then I will lead the radio, I will tag the radio, so the fans at home ‑‑ and I think ESPN's mission statement is to service the viewer, and to me, and I'm not casting off on anyone else, I think our network has done a better job than anyone in the history of the sport of getting those radios on back and forth between a driver and crew chief and spotter or among those groups, and with the dual path on‑board cameras, you can actually see the driver in the car talking, see what he's looking at on the racetrack, and we can have a hand‑held camera show you the crew chief.
So I think that that along with how we cover the pits with what we call quad pit stops where we cover four pit stops at one time and a combination of high cameras, hand‑held cameras and throwing from one to the other to be able to cover ‑‑ here again, we're not just talking about four tires and Sunoco gas. We're talking about getting people at home ‑‑ if you're watching, what do you want to know about what's going to happen with Brad Keselowski's pit stops? We tell you what he's complaining about with the car, what Paul Wolfe is thinking about doing and what they're trying to accomplish, and you can see the tires being changed. I think we're trying to add a little more meat on the bone with how we cover four pit stops almost every time they come down pit road with my colleagues in the pits. I'm very proud of how we do that.
Q. I wanted to ask you a question about ESPN going forward from here. You still have some motorsports properties, most notably NHRA. I was wondering if you saw an opportunity to maybe use some NASCAR resources and enhance coverage of that or any other motorsports series. I just wonder what the plan was for motorized sports going forward for you guys from here.
RICH FEINBERG: Well, in addition to the NHRA, where we've had a long‑standing partnership and continue to have one, we're obviously very involved in the IndyCar Series, particularly the Indianapolis 500. This year, this past year was the 50th anniversary of ABC's coverage of the Indy 500, and next year it'll be the 99th Indy 500, and of particular interest to me as a race fan, the chance to do the 100th Indy 500 in two years.
Most of the motorsports I've been involved with over the years and behind the scenes there is lots of crossover. It may not be that apparent to the viewer. Normally things like the talent or the graphic looks or things that the average person would notice, but in terms of some of our technicians, our remote mobile unit facilities, partners who we work with in different technology, there's quite a bit of sharing already going on, and as we continue to go forward, if there are particular resources that perhaps have had a heavier weight of NASCAR assignments, it would certainly be my intent to keep them involved in our other motorsports properties.
You know, whether it's the NHRA or IndyCar or NASCAR, candidly we go in to every telecast with the same goals in mind, and Jerry just mentioned it, and that's to serve our viewers.
Behind the scenes there's already a lot of that sort of synergy that you're referring to in our production approach.
Q. Allen, correct me if I'm wrong, but you've been doing NASCAR since '86 since joining at MRN, and I wanted to ask you what will it be like next year without NASCAR? And secondly, at Homestead, when you sign off, what do you hope to convey with your final words?
ALLEN BESTWICK: Well, a couple things there. First, what will next year be like? It'll be different. You know, my life has been centered around daily involvement with this sport since 1986. It will be very different.
But at the same time, the opportunities that ESPN has afforded me and the events that I'm going to get to be involved in and get to be around are exciting. They're a big deal to me. They're going to be fun. They're new, and I mean, I'm going to have a chance to be involved in and around the British Open at St. Andrews next summer. How could you not be excited about that? It'll be very different. I'm a fan. I'll always be paying attention and I'll always be watching, but it'll be different, and obviously the thing that I'll miss the most are the friends that I've made along the way.
As far as Homestead, Homestead is about the champion. Homestead is about crowning a champion, and it's about whatever it is that we see unfold on the racetrack that night, and that's going to be the focus of our telecast.
That's what's important that night. It's not about us, it's about the champion.
If you were to ask me for an overriding thought, it's for people to know how much we appreciate their sharing their time with us watching these races, hoping that they've enjoyed what we do, and hoping that they know how much heart and soul we all put into it and how much fun that we've had. But the reality is Homestead is not about us. Homestead is about crowning a champion, and that will be the focus of what we do.
Q. Dr. Punch, you're a doctor, the illustrious career you've had and everything else, could you share with us what it's like to be so accomplished?
JERRY PUNCH: Well, I've been very blessed. It's very kind of you to say that. I have been very blessed to be a part of ESPN. Growing up in a small rural area in western North Carolina, my mom and dad who worked two jobs to make ends meet told me if I would get my education that the sky would be the limit. I wanted to be a football coach and I wanted to be involved in sports and I wanted to teach history, and then suddenly I wanted to be a medical doctor. So I got an education and became a doctor, and then sure enough, I got a chance to do broadcasting, and then the blessing came that ESPN allowed me to be a part of their family the last 31 years.
You know, every time I turn around and pick up a magazine or think about where I've been or where I was last week or where I'm going this week, I want to pinch myself and say, how blessed can one person be. Blessed to be a part of covering a sport ‑‑ as Allen said, it's never been about us. We're not here to be the story, we're here to cover the story, and the friendships, the relationships, the fact that people have trusted us for decades to be able to come into their living room, and they want to hear what Allen Bestwick and Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett, Andy Petree, they want to hear ‑‑ I try to ask the question that I think my friends who are race fans want to hear but my mom would want to hear and my grandmother would want to hear. What do they want to know, so that's what I want to ask. That's a blessing.
I just feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to do that, and NASCAR and IndyCar, I mean, I've done 22 Indy 500s and I've talked to some phenomenal drivers there in open‑wheel racing, great football coaches and basketball coaches. I've been very blessed to have the opportunity to do that, and I'm looking forward to doing it at least two more weeks in NASCAR and then getting to Homestead, making sure that we focus on what we try to do best, which is cover the sport, cover the story, and not be the story.
This isn't the first break in coverage as they took a seven year break in the early 2000s, but this one has a more permanent feel to it. Only time will tell if ESPN will return to the NASCAR garage, but for next season and the foreseeable future, tune in to FOX Sports and NBC Sports.
For the second time in his drag racing career, Ron Maroney can say he is an IHRA World Champion.
Maroney clinched his second career Nitro Altered championship with one race remaining at the IHRA Northern Nationals at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park back in August and was able to simply sit back and enjoy the long and rainy weekend at the IHRA Summit Racing Equipment World Finals at Memphis International Raceway knowing he is a two-time champion.
"It is exciting to get our second championship. They both mean a lot to me, but they are also very different," Maroney said.
And what a difference those two championships really are.
Maroney won his first IHRA championship during the inaugural season of the Nitro Altered class in competition with the Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series back in 2011 as the hired gun in the legendary "Nanook" Altered campaigned by the Hough family out of Las Vegas. This time around, however, Maroney clinched the championship driving his own car, the "Blind Faith" entry, completely owned and operated by him and his family.
And it is that personal touch that made the second championship just a little more special.
"I love the Hough family to death. They gave me that opportunity to drive the 'Nanook' car, a car that I grew up idolizing, to win a championship," Maroney said. "Now, to win it in my own car, a car that my wife and I own 100 percent, that is really special. It was an amazing year for us in this car."
And what a season it was for Maroney and the "Blind Faith" team.
After a rather slow start to the year with zero final round appearances in the first three points races, Maroney blasted onto the scene with a win at the IHRA Spring Nationals at historic Rockingham Dragway back in May. After that slow start, Maroney then went on to record four final round appearances in the next five races, with wins in Rockingham, Grand Bend, Ontario and the championship-sealing victory in Martin, Michigan.
With three wins in four final round appearances, Maroney was able to cruise to a comfortable 212-point margin over championship runner-up Don Blackshear in the "Bullet Bob" Altered. Blackshear finished with two victories in 2014, giving car owners Bob and Cathie Floch wins in both Nitro Funny Car and Nitro Altered over the past five seasons.
Mike Hilsabeck finished third in the "Arizona Thunder" machine with one victory, followed by Kyle Hough in "Nanook" and Ron Hope in "Rat Trap." Nine different drivers visited a final round in Nitro Altered this season, including cousins Ron and Jim Maroney and the father and son duo of Ron and Brian Hope.
Since the class debuted with the Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series back in 2011, Maroney has a class-leading 16 wins to go along with his two championships.
"The past four years have been really special for myself and the rest of the guys out here racing," Maroney said. "IHRA gave us a great place to race and it was our goal each and every weekend to go out there and put on a great show for these fans."
In all, it was a tremendous season for the Nitro Altered category as the drivers continued to put on a show in the wild, extremely unpredictable class. From a number of wall-banging runs, to crazy side-by-side racing and even the return of the fire burnout, perfected by Ron Hope in the world famous "Rat Trap" machine, the Nitro Altered class was once again celebrated by the fans and teams.
"It was a great year, but it was a year that really showed what these Altereds are all about. We could go out and run 6.20s on one pass, then the next pass we are taking out cones while other guys are hitting the wall. Then we come back and runs 6.30s right down the center," Maroney said. "You just never know what these things are going to do. Sometimes they go straight as an arrow and sometimes you are just along for the ride. That is why we love these cars and that is why we will continue showing people what this class is all about."